- An Interview with Jonny Polonsky Jammerzine Exclusive 48:39
Jonny Polonsky is a musician that has had a long and varied career, and he is only getting started. Not only has Jonny released six full-length albums over almost 2 1/2 decades, he is about to release what may be his most varied album yet titled ‘Kingdom of Sleep’ on March 6th.
Having also worked with a varied genre-hopping family of fellow artists such as Puscifer, Johnny Cash, Tom Morello, Neil Diamond and, wait for it, Minnie Driver. Jonny is well known in the music industry and it is honestly a treat to me to not only talk with him in this interview but to listen to the music he makes on his own. By doing that, one can hear the obvious influence he has given the music industry with his unique musical style as an artist and techniques as a musician. Check out our review of his last single ‘Weeping Souls‘ for evidence of this.
today we talk with Jonny about all of the above as well as his humble beginnings, his choice of gear, and much much more. Enjoy!
‘Kingdom of Sleep’ will be released on March 6 on CD and clear vinyl with gatefold sleeve, as well as digitally. It can be pre-ordered HERE.
ABOUT JONNY POLONSKY
Hailing from Chicago, Jonny Polonsky writes interstellar anthems for a new generation of mind freaks. Songs of sex and death and love…hymns of despair and transcendence. A celebration of what it feels like to be human; from the exalted, grandest moments of euphoria and bliss, to the universal pain of loss and letting go. Beauty at every turn.
Over his storied and dynamic career as a solo artist, Jonny Polonsky has released six full-length records over 23 years. From early on, he has impressed upon many music luminaries. His DIY demos led to support from Reeves Gabrels (David Bowie, Tin Machine), Marc Ribot (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello), Zander Schloss (Joe Strummer, Circle Jerks) and John Zorn. The latter invited him to play CBGB’s Gallery for the New Jewish Music Festival with his band featuring Marc Ribot on guitar, Sebastian Steinberg (Soul Coughing) on bass, and Sim Cain (Rollins Band) on drums.
Reeves Gabrels’ introduction led to Frank Black support, representation by Pixies manager Ken Goes, and Frank Black producing a demo recording, which led iconic record producer Rick Rubin to sign Polonsky to American Recordings.
Polonsky has also performed on albums by Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine), Pete Yorn, Dixie Chicks, Minnie Driver and Donovan.
About ‘The Weeping Souls’, Jonny Polonsky notes: “This song is basically about when you’ve cut someone out of your life, and you’re still trying to process all the conflicting, paradoxical feelings you have for them. It’s also kind of a love letter that was intentionally never sent to its recipient. Sorta like how Abraham Lincoln would write letters venting his feelings, and stick them in his desk drawer. I don’t have a desk drawer so I’m using the Internet”.
The instrumentation on this record ranges beyond the standard guitar, bass and drums: 1980’s Blade Runner-like synthesizer soundscapes, Middle Eastern finger cymbals, gongs, bass clarinets, piccolos, harmonica, bass fiddles, and a children’s choir.
“This album came together as most of my records – gradually. I’m always writing and recording, and after a while, I notice a unifying theme or atmosphere kind of pokes it head up. The songs that want to be grouped together raise their hands and volunteer for service, nothing is very consciously calculated on my end. I was listening to a lot of Cocteau Twins, I got heavily into them while writing and recording these songs,” says Jonny Polonsky.
The forthcoming ‘Kingdom of Sleep’ album follows ‘UNRELEASHED: Demos and Rarities 1996-2018’, issued as a limited-edition colored-vinyl Record Store Day gatefold edition via Jett Plastic Recordings (also available digitally and on CD with 3 bonus tracks).
Mixed by producer Brendan O’Brien (Neil Young, Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, Rage Against the Machine), his 1996 debut album ‘Hi My Name is Jonny’ was met with great critical reception from The New York Times, MTV and international news outlets. After touring with Frank Black for several months and the 1996 Lollapalooza summer tour, Polonsky took a hiatus.
Resurfacing in 2004 with ‘The Power of Sound’ LP, he supported Audioslave on their 2005 North American tour. In 2006, Polonsky formed the short-lived band Big Nose with Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave), and collaborated on several songs with Maynard James Keenan (Tool, A Perfect Circle) for his project Puscifer, with whom Polonsky also wrote, recorded and toured from 2007 to 2010.
Polonsky’s 2012 album ‘Intergalactic Messenger of Divine Light and Love’ was recorded at Rick Rubin’s recording studio in Malibu and Akademie Mathematique of Philosophical Sound Research, and mixed by Jim Scott (Tom Petty, Slayer). The 2015 album ‘The Other Side of Midnight’ followed, mixed by Dean Hurley at David Lynch’s Asymmetrical Studios.
Polonsky released his fifth LP ‘Fresh Flesh’ in January 2018, recorded at Rick Rubin’s studio and featuring guest performances by vocalist Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age), and drummer Kevin Haskins of Bauhaus, Love and Rockets, and Tones on Tail.
Featured image by Jason Robinette.